There is a direct connection between the anti-apartheid movement and the birth of American Cultures.Professor Pedro Noguera, Dean, USC School of Education, UC Berkeley Student Body President, 1985
In 1976, halfway across the world in Soweto South Africa, Black schoolchildren brought years of unrest and civil disobedience to the apartheid state. The vibrations were felt in California and in the ports of San Francisco and Oakland, and an anti-apartheid boycott, inspired by the Soweto schoolchildren grew. In 1986, UC Berkeley students joined the SF and Oakland Longshore and Warehouse workers to organize against South African goods being disembarked and for divestment of the UC Regent pension investments from South African apartheid businesses. The movement was successful, pushing UC to divest more than $4 billion in South African investments, and in the process, inspiring the beginning of the American Cultures (AC) curriculum.
The political momentum created by TWLF, the creation of the Department of Ethnic Studies, and the increasingly diverse student bodies, faculties, and curricula, built the foundations of political education for a new movement.
“There is a direct connection between the anti-apartheid movement and the birth of American Cultures. There were these sparks ignited in South Africa …and political repression brought South Africa into the news, which led to longshore workers in San Francisco refusing to take South African cargo off ships ... and led to a movement across the country that particularly took hold on college campuses, and Berkeley especially. To be associated with a movement that actually succeeded was really unusual but highly significant, and because of the momentum that we had built, we were really feeling our oats, and we thought if we could do that, we could do more. We can begin to dismantle some of the racial barriers here on campus, so we started thinking about the curriculum. And looking at the faculty, and the fact was that although Berkeley had been one of the first campuses to create an Ethnic Studies program because of student protests, it had become a place where Ethnic Studies had become completely marginalized, and there were very few faculty of color anywhere else at the university. And we said that this has to be our issue, that we desegregate the campus, desegregate the curriculum.”Professor Pedro Noguera, Dean, USC School of Education, UC Berkeley Student Body President, 1985